Thailand has become a coffee culture, and there is certainly no shortage of coffee shops here, but Nangnon Coffee is special. What I like about it is it’s run and owned by a sweet and lovely Akha hill tribe woman, and the coffee is locally grown and roasted.
Her nickname is Tu, and she was fortunate enough to intern with Lee from Akha Ama Coffee (just after his sister to be exact). I knew Lee before he became famous for his coffee. In fact, I interviewed him for his website. And yes, he’s a nice guy!
So, it is fitting that I interviewed one of his interns who opened up her own coffee shop here in Chiang Rai.
How long have you been open?
I opened on the 8th of January 2014.
Oh, wow. Just this year, and how did you meet Lee and come to intern with him?
Initially I met him when he returned to Chiang Rai Rajabhat University to receive an award for being a successful graduate. Lee majored in English and so did I. There’s a Facebook page for English graduates for our alumni, and this is where I contacted him for interning at Akha Ama Chiang Mai.
It’s interesting, you and Lee are both Akha, and yet, you didn’t know each other through this connection.
No, but after our families met, it turned out that my grandmother knew his grandparents!
How long did you work with Lee?
I interned with him for 3 months and then worked at Akha Ama Coffee for a year. When my brother became a solider, I had to return home to care for my father. My brother was caring for him, but he has to be in the Thai military for 2 years. If you join voluntarily after you graduate high school, it’s only a one year commitment. But if you wait, like my brother did, until you are 21, you have to serve 2 years.
Where is your mom?
She’s in Malaysia. She makes bpaa tawng goh (Thai style donuts that are commonly served with soy milk).
So, in order to be close to your dad, you opened your own coffee shop, right?
Yes. He in Maesai.
Where does Nangnon Coffee come from?
It comes from our family farm in Maesai. We roast our own coffee, too.
What does Nangnon mean?
It means sleeping woman. Nang is woman, and non is sleeping. Nangnon is the mountain at Maesai.
What’s your favorite coffee drink?
What did you learn at Akha Ama that you will remember most?
I’m asked this question a lot. I learned that, unlike interning at a hotel where you might get stuck doing one thing like working in the kitchen, running a coffee shop involves much more variety. I enjoyed learning and doing different things, even when Lee asked me to translate something.
What languages do you speak?
Akha, Thai, English and Chinese.
What’s your favorite food?
Noodles. Anything with noodles, I don’t like rice.
You don’t like rice!
Ole girl is blowing the Asian stereotypes off the sala roof.
If you are in town, I hope you will stop by and support Tu’s independent spirit. Nangnon coffee is a direct from farm to customer product, too! 🙂 Cheers.